Pushkin: The Talisman (From Russian)

The Talisman
By Alexander Pushkin
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Russian

Where the sea forever splashes
On a desolate rock face,
Where the moon more warmly sparkles

In sweet hours of evening haze,
Where the harems do their service
To the lax Mohammedan,
An enchantress, with caresses,
Handed me a Talisman.

With caresses there she bade me:
“Guard this Talisman aright.
Secret power it possesses.
Love has deemed it yours tonight.
Neither plague nor grave nor aging
My beloved, will it ban,
Nor shall you survive the blizzard
Aided by my Talisman,

Neither will it help you gather
Pearls from Oriental seas,
Nor persuade the Prophet's faithful
To pledge you their loyalties,
Nor to arms of love and friendship
From this sad and foreign land
Shall you journey north and homeward
Driven by my Talisman.

But, should traitor eyes entrap you,
Darling, in a sudden spell,
Or if lips in dark of evening
Love you not but kiss too well,
Then, my love, from every evil

Wound that would your heart unman,
From oblivion, from betrayal,
Be your shield my Talisman."


The Original

Талисман
Александр Пушкин

Там, где море вечно плещет
На пустынные скалы,
Где луна теплее блещет
В сладкий час вечерней мглы,
Где, в гаремах наслаждаясь,
Дни проводит мусульман,
Там волшебница, ласкаясь,
Мне вручила талисман.

И, ласкаясь, говорила:
"Сохрани мой талисман:
В нем таинственная сила!
Он тебе любовью дан.
От недуга, от могилы,
В бурю, в грозный ураган,
Головы твоей, мой милый,
Не спасет мой талисман.

И богатствами Востока
Он тебя не одарит,
И поклонников пророка
Он тебе не покорит;
И тебя на лоно друга,
От печальных чуждых стран,
В край родной на север с юга
Не умчит мой талисман...

Но когда коварны очи
Очаруют вдруг тебя,
Иль уста во мраке ночи
Поцелуют не любя -
Милый друг! от преступленья,
От сердечных новых paн,
От измены, от забвенья
Сохранит мои талисман!"

Jean-Yves Masson: The Angel (From French)

The Angel
By Jean-Yves Masson
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original French

The angel said “Now to the terrace where the wind 
turns, come. Draw nearer to my mystery.
I am the moment reuniting all the dead.
You must contend against me. No greatness is given
him who would keep his word 
if he does not throw
down a shadow gauntlet to time that binds him by its law.”
Approaching angel, I know you as the sea,
As the gravity of temples and the youth of doves.
I shall stand against you. I shall be strong.
And how small my defeat if I come to

the future garden hands filled with burgeoning fruits.

The Original:

L'Ange Disait

L'ange disait :"Sur la terrasse où le vent tourne,
viens maintenant, approche-toi de mon mystère,
je suis l'instant qui réunit tous les morts.
Tu devras lutter contre moi. Nulle grandeur
n'est donnée à qui veut tenir parole, s'il ne lance
un défi d'ombre au temps qui le tient sous sa loi. "
Ange qui viens, je te connais comme la mer,
comme la gravité des temples et la jeunesse des colombes,
je me dresserai contre toi. Je serai fort.
Et peu m'importe ma défaite si je viens
au jardin d'avenir, les bras chargés de fruits naissants.

Ronsard: "When you are old" (Fro French)

Sonnet to Helen
By Pierre de Ronsard (mid 16th cent)
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original in late Middle French pronunciation
Click to hear me recite it in Modern French

When you sit aging under evening's star
By hearth and candle, spinning yarns and wool,
You'll sing my verse in awe and say "Ronsard
Wrought song of me when I was beautiful"


Hearing such words, your serving-maid that night,
Though half-asleep from drudging, all the same
Will wake at my name's sound and stand upright
Hailing the deathless praises of your name.

I'll be a boneless phantom resting sound
Amid the myrtly shades1 far underground.
You, by the hearth, a crone bent low in sorrow
For your proud scorn that willed my love away.
Live now, I beg of you. Wait not the morrow.
Gather the roses of your life today.


Note
1-Resting with the shady myrtle tree often denotes peace, and its greenness suggests immortality. That myrtle leaves were an emblem of Venus also implies that Ronsard has that goddess on his side in his poetic headspace. (c.f. Horace 1.25.) Note, however, that this is not the only classical connotation of myrtle. See for example Virgil (Aeneid VI 440-4):

Not far from here, splayed all about, there lie
The Plains of Weeping. That is the name they bear
For here those whom brutal love has drained and ravaged
Hide on clandestine paths and under cover
Of myrtle bowers. Even here in death
Their yearnings have no mercy.
Nec procul hinc partem fusi monstrantur in omnem
Lugentes campi; sic illos nomine dicunt.
hic quos durus amor crudeli tabe peredit
secreti celant calles et myrtea circum
silva tegit; curae non ipsa in morte relinquunt.



The Original:

Sonnet à Hélène

Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir à la chandelle,
Assise aupres du feu, devidant et filant,
Direz, chantant mes vers, en vous esmerveillant:
« Ronsard me celebroit du temps que j'estois belle ! »

Lors vous n'aurez servante oyant telle nouvelle,
Desja sous le labeur à demy sommeillant,
Qui au bruit de mon nom ne s'aille resveillant,
Benissant1 vostre nom de louange immortelle.

Je seroy sous la terre, et fantaume sans os ;
Par les ombres Myrtheux je prendray mon repos.
Vous serez au fouyer une vieille accroupie,
Regrettant mon amour, et vostre fier desdain.
Vivez, si m'en croyez2, n'attendez à demain :
Cueillez dés aujourd'huy les roses de la vie.

Notes on the French text:
1- Benir qqn. de qqch. in Middle French meant "congratulate/commend" (someone for something), which makes more sense contextually here than the more commonly presumed "bless with."
2- si m'en croyez in Middle French meant something more like "I implore you."

Rexa Zoelfman: Waking (From Laisaluga)

Here's a sonnet I have loved for years, translated from a language whose poets so rarely employ the sonnet form, unfortunately. 

Waking
By Rexa Zoelfman
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Hearing a sound that ought to be your sleep
I reach and set my heart on your left hand
But find the window: winter, ankle-deep
In autumn, hates the pathways of the land.
But snow is slowly stepping down the tree
Where morning tried to speak, but mused in rain.
I lie back, wondering if you also see
What dreams we are begetting in my brain:

Years roll along our faces and we cling
To bedsheets and each other. In cold light
Snow melts between our bodies. Everything
We do shall stake our claim to all the night.
I turn against your ceiling with our cry
As if to look for kinship with the sky.

The Original:

Meréxo
Rexa Zoelfman

Xomé takai talonti vitrok sün
Momú kai latri mik kor vitrok sin
Ma trewu qo ferfatai: Herazün
Pedlunge xi qibranai doro xin.
Ma nolge newu peto dendriné
Txa motro paulet pürka txü plük fal.
El rebaskú kai pregu hek vit vé
Mai rezui est txü nitrok tetmonal.

Hai hokorú figaiper kai txelú
En nitrakón, en loqfarín, en pai.
Ex lumper kaxnu newu. Heimarú
Ie vitrok maka tolu honter lai.
Vitrok metonper kansu kailaséq
Kehapesú kedrán xo kuxmonéq.

Paul Van Ostaijen: Mythos (From Dutch)


Mythos
By Paul Van Ostaijen
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the Dutch

A tall hand juts in the night
And it juts before the night
for the night alone is yonder blueness
at the endpoint of my eyes
and before the blue night there slides the dive of one white dove
If a white hare should slide before your eyes
Over the street, beware
It takes your life on over
From the one scale to the other
And you do not know
What this all signifies.


The Original:

Mythos
Paul Van Ostaijen

Een hoge hand steekt in de nacht
en zij steekt vóór de nacht
omdat de nacht alleen is gene blauwheid
aan 't einde van mijn ogen
en vóór de blauwe nacht schuift éen witte duif
zo een witte haas schuift voor uw ogen
over de straat neem u in acht
hij draagt uw leven over
van d'ene schaal naar d'andere
en gij weet niet
wat dit beduidt

Mihai Eminescu: For The Star (From Romanian)

“Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars - mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination - stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one - million - year - old light. A vast pattern - of which I am a part... What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?” 
― Richard P. Feynman

Well, Richard Feynman, meet Mihai Eminescu who meditates on love in terms of some light that has travelled for thousands of years at a speed of 186,000 miles per second from a distant star to the Earth.  You two will get along well. Science, no less than religion, can make for good poetry.

For the Star
By Mihai Eminescu
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Romanian

It's been a long way for that star
Now rising in our skies:
Its light has trekked a thousand years
To reach our earthborn eyes.

It may have long ago burned out
Amid the blue of space
Yet only now its ray has come
To set our sights ablaze.

That icon of a perished star
Climbs heaven's canopy:
We who saw not the light that was
Now see what's ceased to be.

It's ever thus when our desires
Go, spent, into the night.
Our love still follows after us
With an extinguished light.


The Original:

La Steaua

La steaua care-a răsărit
E-o cale-atât de lungă,
Că mii de ani i-au trebuit
Luminii să ne-ajungă.

Poate de mult s-a stins în drum
În depărtări albastre,
Iar raza ei abia acum
Luci vederii noastre,

Icoana stelei ce-a murit
Încet pe cer se suie:
Era pe când nu s-a zărit,
Azi o vedem, şi nu e.

Tot astfel când al nostru dor
Pieri în noapte-adâncă,
Lumina stinsului amor
Ne urmăreşte încă.